Study: Illicit Drugs Cheaper And More Prevalent Despite Increased Legal Sanctions

Study: Illicit Drugs Cheaper And More Prevalent Despite Increased Legal Sanctions

Vancouver, Canada: Law enforcement-based efforts criminalizing the possession of illicit substances have largely failed to reduce drug production, potency, or access, according to an assessment of global drug interdiction efforts published online this week by the British Medical Journal.

Investigators from Canada and the United States reviewed government data to assess the long-term, global impact of enforcement-based supply reduction intervention efforts.

Researchers reported, "[T]he global supply of illicit drugs has likely not been reduced in the previous two decades. In particular, the data presented in this study suggest that the supply of opiates and cannabis, in particular, have increased, given the increasing potency and decreasing prices of these illegal commodities."

Authors reported that in the United States, the average price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased by an estimated 80 percent between 1990 and 2007, while average drug purity increased by 60 percent, 11 percent and 161 percent respectively.

They concluded: "With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at:  Full text of the study, "The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems," is available online at: